Life of Brian

Sunday Mail - Travel/Escape - - A TRAVELLER’S TALE -

MY DAUGH­TER came from the laun­dry hold­ing up my jeans and sar­cas­ti­cally asked: ‘‘ Did you mean to wash your pass­port?’’

‘‘ F---. F---. F---,’’ I replied. I trea­sure my pass­port.

In my job it is one of the most prized as­sets I have. To put it sim­ply there’s not a lot of fun in be­ing a travel ed­i­tor with­out a pass­port.

It was Tues­day morn­ing and I’d just flown in from Lon­don. My rou­tine af­ter any trip is to empty my bag in the laun­dry and crank up the wash­ing ma­chine. My pass­port was in my back pocket and ended up be­ing de­stroyed by the 90-minute colour wash cy­cle.

Nor­mally this wouldn’t be an is­sue. I tend not to do back-to-back trips. But my prob­lem this time – and it was a big prob­lem – was that we were leav­ing on an in­ter-gen­er­a­tional fam­ily cruise to the South Pa­cific in four days. I needed a new pass­port in a hurry.

The irony of this sit­u­a­tion was that I had has­sled my daugh­ters months ear­lier about get­ting their pass­ports. They had taken for­ever to get new ones for the trip and I kept nag­ging them to hurry be­cause ‘‘ no pass­port means no Christ­mas cruise’’.

Clasp­ing my soggy pass­port it now looked as if I was go­ing to be spend­ing Christ­mas alone. My daugh­ters de­lighted in hav­ing the last laugh.

Af­ter I stopped swear­ing my first call was to the pass­port of­fice.

I told the woman on the phone my predica­ment and she said the sit­u­a­tion could be reme­died, if I acted quickly.

My pass­port, although wet, was still valid for five years. Could I sim­ply get a new copy is­sued?, I asked. No. I needed to ap­ply for a com­pletely new pass­port.

She ar­ranged an emer­gency ap­point­ment at the pass­port of­fice for 8.30 the next morn­ing but I had to ar­rive with a birth cer­tifi­cate, my ru­ined pass­port, and room on my credit card to ac­com­mo­date about $600 in charges.

Birth cer­tifi­cate. Bug­ger. I didn’t have one.

‘‘ Surely my old pass­port shows you who I am?’’ No. I needed proof that I was born in Kiama some 50-odd years ago. I was ad­vised to duck into the Births, Deaths and Mar­riages of­fice and pick up a copy. Prob­lem was I was born in NSW and now live more than 1000km from the near­est B, D& M of­fice. For $110 they could, how­ever, fax a copy to the Pass­port Of­fice. Thank you.

My next step was to race out and get some pass­port pho­tos, find a wit­ness to ver­ify I was who I said I was, and fill in the pass­port form.

Armed with ev­ery­thing I needed, I headed to the city, bat­tled the traf­fic, and ar­rived at the of­fice 10 min­utes early. The in­ter­view process went smoothly. I handed over the still drip­ping pass­port and was told my new one would be ready to col­lect in 48 hours. I had to pay an ad­di­tional fee for the speedy pro­cess­ing but that was bet­ter than miss­ing Christ­mas.

I was given a num­ber so I could track the ap­pli­ca­tion process on­line.

By the time I had ar­rived home, I learnt my pass­port was al­ready 20 per cent com­plete.

And then the phone rang. I had not filled in a statu­tory dec­la­ra­tion ex­plain­ing what had hap­pened to my pass­port. I down­loaded the form and filled in the bit say­ing that I had fool­ishly ‘‘ Omo-ed’’ the life out of it, emailed it back to the woman, and we were back in busi­ness.

Forty per cent com­plete. Sixty per cent com­plete. Eighty per cent com­plete. Done by Thurs­day af­ter­noon. I quickly jumped in the car and drove the 50 min­utes into the city, parked and paid the $20 park­ing fee, and raced up to the Pass­port of­fice at 4.30pm only to find a note on the door say­ing that the of­fice closed at 4 pm.

The next day, I did it all over again and even­tu­ally had my new pass­port in hand.

I have to say the Pass­port Of­fice was tremen­dous. They made the process as easy as pos­si­ble and I will for­ever be grate­ful they helped get me on board the Car­ni­val Spirit for my Christ­mas cruise.

The cruise was sen­sa­tional. I doubt there is a bet­ter way for three gen­er­a­tions to travel. The ship kept my 17 and 20-year-olds en­ter­tained as well as my 75-year-old in-laws. And there are no words to de­scribe how good Christ­mas Day is when some­one else cooks the ham and turkey and then does the clean­ing up af­ter­wards.

And as far as lessons learnt, I won’t ever put my pass­port in my back pocket again. Prom­ise. Brian Crisp is NewsLimited’s na­tional travel ed­i­tor.

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